I love Goodwood. The feel of the place is great- if Silverstone is Lewis Hamilton’s Arai helmet with full HANS harness, then Goodwood is Stirling Moss’s Everoak. One is functional, efficient and maybe a little soulless, the other charismatic, stylish but possibly risky.
This weekend, at the otherwise superb 74th Members’ Meeting, that risky character of Goodwood, and historic motor racing in general, was firmly brought home to those watching, with a series of very serious crashes. Fortunately, nobody was killed, but this week there will undoubtedly be some serious discussions taking place at Goodwood House.
The first crash took place at just after 9am in the Brooks Trophy. Stephen Bond, in his 1961 Lotus Climax 18, had just exited the chicane and entered the pit straight when his car and the Cooper T51 of Richard Wilson collided. The crash caused Bond’s Lotus to cartwheel, leaving the circuit and coming to rest inside the GRRC foot tunnel. A wheel from the car became dislodged and fell into the disabled viewing area. The tunnel, usually full of people, and the disabled area were both empty; nobody was hurt except Bond who was reported to have suffered a broken collar bone. The crash was captured on video here.
Later, in the Bruce McLaren Can Am race a Lola-Chevrolet T70 Spyder driven by Michiel Smits went straight on at Woodcote and hit the tyre barrier extremely hard. Smits was again supremely lucky- his son reported on Pistonheads here that he had suffered just a broken rib and two vertebrae.
Racing was delayed as the tyre wall was rebuilt, but the fun was not over. In the Graham Hill Trophy race, car number 63, a 1963 Cobra driven by Karsten Le Blanc, lost control under breaking at the end of the Lavant Straight. Leaving the tarmac, the car skidded over the grass and made another big impact with the tyre wall. Again, the driver avoided serious injury, and again it was captured on video.
So what, if anything, is there to deduce from three serious crashes in the space of a few hours’ racing? The weather was good, so you can’t blame that. The cars- with the exception of the Lola- could have been racing at the Revival, so that’s also out as a common factor. We’re left with the track and the drivers.
But Goodwood has always been a hairy circuit- it is very quick and if you get it wrong there isn’t much space to sort things out before you hit something hard. And despite some commentators blaming over-enthusiastic gentleman drivers, the fact is that a huge amount of racing takes place safely at Goodwood- the Saturday of this year’s Members’ Meeting is a case in point.
No, what happened at Goodwood last weekend was that old motorsport combination: bad and good luck, both arriving at the same time. Bad, because three bad shunts happened on the same day, and good because nobody was badly hurt.
Now the challenge that face Lord March and his team is to learn from those accidents and try to make things safer without affecting the ‘Everoak’ character of the place. The crash that will concern them most is the first- the Lotus leaving the circuit. Because, while every driver knows the risks, the spectators who attend what are billed as family events may be less aware.
Whatever changes the team at Goodwood decide to implement, we wish them the best of luck- in only its third year, the Members’ Meeting has already established itself as one of the best historic race meetings in the calendar. Long may it safely continue.
What do you think? Should the circuit change, or maybe the constraints on drivers? Or is motorsport inherently risky? We value your opinion.